Bronx tenants without cooking gas for a year file lawsuit against landlord

Nearly two dozen Bronx tenants say they’ve been forced to live in such deplorable conditions that they’re now asking for a court-appointed executive to replace their landlord.

The residents of 643 Southern Blvd. have gone without cooking gas in the building for an entire year, according to the nonprofit Legal Aid Society, which filed the lawsuit in Bronx housing court on their behalf. The building also has 249 open violations from the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development for issues ranging from lead paint and mold to rodents and other safety hazards.

Jessenia Taberas, whose mother has lived in the building for the last 15 years, said her family struggles to put food on the table because they’re unable to cook at home, forced instead to spend money on takeout that they can’t really afford.

“I am very worried about the lead paint that was found in my apartment that the landlord has not fixed,” Taberas, who has a small child, added.

The tenants are hoping to secure a court order that would appoint an independent administrator to take over most of the responsibilities of the landlord, including rent collection and building repairs.

“This landlord has utterly failed to meet the basic responsibilities of being a landlord, and tenants have suffered for far too long,” Benjamin Seibel, staff attorney at The Legal Aid Society, said.

The building’s owner, Marquis Housing LLC; the company’s chief officer, Lazer Kviat; managing agent Sam David; and mortgage holder New York Community Bank are named as defendants in the litigation, which is called a 7A proceeding. The city HPD was also listed, as required by law.

“All owners are responsible for maintaining safe and healthy homes for their residents,” HPD spokeswoman Juliet Pierre-Antoine said in response to the lawsuit. “We will continue to work with this property and take actions to hold the owner accountable in the best interest of tenant safety.”

Marquis Housing, Kviat, David and New York Community Bank were unable to be reached for comment.

HPD also separately filed litigation earlier this year in an attempt to force the owner and landlord into fixing the building. A settlement in May mandated that Marquis Housing correct outstanding violations and pay $6,000 in civil penalties, but the company has not complied. The case is expected to return to court on Oct. 25.

In the meantime, HPD has been regularly inspecting the building and issuing violations as necessary, according to city officials. There’s also an active work order for lead abatement, but it has not yet been completed.